14 January 2009

Transcending the podium

In the last few months of 2008, I was lucky enough to go to a couple of conferences (The Feast and IDEA). I noticed something cool that happened in both, and wrote some of it down. For those who haven't seen my January column yet – even for those who have – here it is...

Jan09 column submission, 1

Jan09 column submission, 2

Too tiny? Here's the text:
For a few years now, we have been realizing the importance of engaging consumers beyond one-way communication. One of the most exciting things we've noticed lately, though, has been the application of this idea within the industry itself, most recently with conferences. No longer content as a "lean back" culture, the ideas that stick the most with us are ones in which we lean forward and participate. As time goes on and we get better at practicing what we preach, we will be able to shift conferences from the confines of a stage in a packed eight-hour day, and into a continuous conversation.

TOMS Shoes
Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to a child in need every time a pair is sold here. He gave a presentation on the brand’s story at the last AdAge IDEA Conference in October. At the close of his talk, he promised a free pair of TOMS to every single one of its 250 attendees; all they had to do was text their email address to a specialized number. The following day, everybody got an email requesting shipping, sizing and style information. Subsequently, a free pair was also sent to a child in Argentina. More than just admiring the brand’s philosophy and being inspired at the conference, the IDEA attendees will now be reminded of TOMS every time they wear their free pair. http://www.tomsshoes.com

Pop!Tech Accelerator
Pop!Tech is an annual fall conference that brings together the greatest and most inspired minds to share ideas about the future of science, technology and culture. And rather than just talking about the ideas of tomorrow, Pop!Tech facilitates those ideas to come to life. Enter Accelerator, a digital network that helps bring socially innovative ideas to action by linking the relevant people necessary to get projects done. Accelerator leverages the collective intellectual power present at the Pop!Tech conferences and turns it into an ongoing active partnership to affect positive social change. http://www.poptech.org/accelerator

Fame Game
A web site run by Fame Theory LLC, Fame Game creates publicly facing profiles for people in the New York media community and uses an algorithm to calculate their social capital. Those on the site can “claim” their own profiles and actively influence their social connections and media attention; eventually, they can leverage their fame to better get their ideas and projects into culture and the public consciousness. Fame Theory talked about their project at the FEAST Social Innovation Conference, closing with the news that everybody in attendance had been registered on the site, their social capital being calculated at that very moment. Their next project is to unveil a new model for commissioning artwork by funding 10 original works of art and showcasing them at the next TED conference. The art’s “fame” will then be monitored for a year after the event. http://www.famegame.com
This may be a catch-22, though. If everyone starts to do this, will the entire experience eventually become diluted, each individual speaker or brand being remembered less and less? Probably not, since "engaging people beyond the podium" is pretty open-ended, and even in these 3 examples have been vastly different from one another. I'm excited.
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